(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Canada’s Pascale Paradis and Canadian head coach Jacqueline Akerman.)
IBU Youth World Championships (Otepää, Estonia): Youth women’s and men’s individual
On Day 1 of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Youth/Junior World Championships in Otepää, Canada had two women finish in the top 11 of the youth women’s 10-kilometer individual race on Monday.
Both are brand new to the Youth World Championships scene, with 15-year-old Pascale Paradis placing sixth, 1:09.2 minutes out of first, with one penalty (1+0+0+0). Also for Canada, 17-year-old Benita Peiffer shot an impressive 19-for-20 in the youth women’s longest race of the championships, missing one in prone and cleaning her remaining targets (1+0+0+0) to finish 1:43.1 out of first.
“I came to these championships with no expectations, with it being my first international race I figured I wouldn’t do great because there’s so many other great competitors in the world,” Paradis wrote in an email to FasterSkier on Monday night. “I just lined up for the start line and pretended that I was racing any normal race because if I didn’t think that I knew the nerves would get to me.”
She started in the middle of the field in bib 45 and found the conditions to be ideal: sunny, not too cold and with minimal wind.
“Right out of the start gates I had a good feeling about the day,” she recalled. “I had a restful sleep and was really nervous and excited at the same time. Though I had no idea I would do that well, I just felt good to me and that’s what made me happy. It just made me even happier to realize that I had come top ten and I was over the moon. I didn’t see that coming and I was incredibly grateful for all of those that had helped get to this stage.
“On course I felt pretty strong, I definitely didn’t feel weak but I had no idea my skiing was within some of the faster times,” Paradis added. “On the range my goal was to focus on my own race and not getting bothered by other competitors, which I usually do, and on the range I felt confident when I came in to shoot. I achieved my goal by not getting flustered by the other girls and all the other distracting sounds.”
According to Canada’s head coach and trip leader Jacqueline Akerman, the team’s head wax technician, Andrew Chilsom, informed Paradis she was in first place after the last shooting.
“She gave a little laugh and immediately picked up her pace and passed a few more competitors in her last loop, good enough to hold for a spot in the flower ceremony,” Akerman wrote.
When Paradis crossed the finish line, she was initially in second place.
“When I finished I didn’t believe that I was one of the top competitors,” Paradis wrote. “I was so dazed and tired and there was so many people around that I just couldn’t really get it into my head. So I was just extremely happy to be up there with the other top biathletes in the world, I didn’t think my result would stay like that but I was just happy to be in that position at all. I was expecting a top 60 maybe when I came here let alone top 10.”
Peiffer started 88th out of 91 in the women’s race. After cleaning the last three shooting stages, she learned what place she was fighting for on her last loop.
“It was probably a good thing I wasn’t told how I was doing until the last lap otherwise I would have gotten too excited and blown up on my last shooting bouts,” Peiffer wrote. “When I found out that I would have a chance at 11th place while I was racing I instantly skied as fast as I could and left all my energy all out on the course. Once I crossed that finish line in 11th place I was filled with satisfaction knowing that I put it all out on the course and proved to myself that I can hit those targets!
“I think the key to my solid shooting today was staying completely focused and in my bubble while shooting,” Peiffer continued. “I found it quite challenging with the amount of people around but I just focused on what I had to do to hit those targets. I also found that not thinking about my shooting too early while skiing on the course helped. I usually get too excited about what could happen and then things go sideways! Positivity is another one! Believing that I could hit those targets is what gave me confidence going into the range.”
She described the Otepäa range approach as relatively easy, which she preferred. “I really like to calm down before I start shooting,” Peiffer explained. “The range here is also not affected by the wind much which I am very pleased with!”
Sweden’s Karin Elvira Öberg, the younger sister of Olympic 15 k individual champion Hanna Öberg, won the race with 19-for-20 shooting as well (1+0+0+0), posting the fastest time at the finish of 35:35.9 minutes. And she did so on her 19th birthday.
“I was so happy for Hanna when she won, and now I win,” Öberg told the IBU on Monday.
Russia occupied the second and third steps on the podium with Anastasia Shevchenko placing second, 35.6 seconds back, with two penalties — one of which came on the last shooting stage (1+0+0+1). Anastasiia Goreeva placed third (+53.8) with three penalties (1+2+0+0).
Four Canadian women competed in the event, with Shilo Rousseau finishing 36th (+4:06.4) with three penalties (0+1+0+2), and Jenna Sherrington following in 40th (+4:22.9) with one miss (1+0+0+0).
“It was wonderful to see the whole group of young youth women who are relatively inexperienced (on the international stage) put in solid performances today,” Akerman wrote. “All of them placing in the top forty along with great shooting results is something to be very proud of! … This is credited to the great and hard working staff and supportive team we have here, as well as thier coaches and others back home who have obviously done great prep work. We have 14 family members of athletes here cheering like crazy, cowbells and flags and heys with each hit, it sure adds to the support the athletes feel. During the flower ceremony Pascale got a much louder cheer than the first placed athlete!”
Emma Stertz led the U.S. in 60th (+6:01.9) with two penalties (0+2+0+0), Helen Wilson finished 74th (+8:00.9) with five penalties (2+2+1+0), and Margaret Madigan placed 83rd (+10:53.9) and Grace Gilliland 84th (+11:26.3) with nine penalties apiece.
In the youth men’s 12.5 k individual, Russia’s Mikhail Pervushin claimed the win in 37:41.2 with perfect shooting except for a single miss on the last stage (0+0+0+1). Norway’s Filip Andersen took silver (+12.3) with one penalty as well (1+0+0+0), and France’s Martin Bourgeois République claimed bronze (+47.2) with two penalties (0+1+0+1).
“I was worried before the start, but I’m happy that things turned out as they did,” Pervushin told the IBU. “Today I was aiming for clean shooting, but I did not succeed, that upset me, but I had to fight for the win. I feel good on the track, I like it – overall I’m happy.”
The defending youth world champion in the event, Canada’s Leo Grandbois placed 24th (+4:15.6) on Monday after incurring five penalties (1+1+2+1). American Vasek Cervenka finished about another 10 seconds back in 27th (+4:25.5) with six penalties (0+3+2+1).
“Leo had a solid ski race today,” Ackerman wrote. “His shooting was not there today, but knowing him he will turn that around in a hurry.’
Also for Canada, Rory Gilliland finished 47th (+6:00.1) with three misses (1+0+1+1), Thomas Hulsman was 65th (+7:35.0) with four penalties (3+1+0+0), and Ryan Elden 81st (+10:47.3) with 10 penalties.
For the U.S., Garrett Beckrich placed 48th (+6:03.9) with seven misses, Camren Nieslen was 64th (+7:21.8) with four misses (0+3+1+0), and Maxime Germain 70th (+8:15.6) with seven penalties.
The junior women’s 3 x 6 relay and junior men’s 4 x 7.5 k relays will be held Tuesday and the youth relays will follow on Wednesday.